Over her 19-year career, Sheila Baird has never dreaded getting out of bed to come to work at CONNECT.

“Well, sometimes I definitely don’t want to get out of bed, but once I’m up, I definitely don’t mind coming to work,” she laughs. “CONNECT is a really amazing place to work.”

Sheila reflects on her career so far and says her work as a Life Redesign Coach at CONNECT Langley leaves her feeling pretty good at the end of each day.

“I often have a warm feeling when I leave work that I am appreciated and make a difference to people. It has been eye opening over the years to see what people are capable of when they are determined to make change happen.”

Originally from Portland, Oregon, Sheila’s family moved to BC when she was five because her dad was in the forestry industry and wanted to stay relatively close to family.

As an adult, she worked doing some administrative jobs and then became a stay-at-home mom for eight years. After that, she earned her Resident Care Aide certificate and took a job at CONNECT without knowing much about brain injury or CONNECT.

“Like any job, CONNECT has its ups and downs, but I really love my job and I consider my coworkers my good friends.”

She says everyone at CONNECT gives their whole heart to helping the people they support.

“It sounds cliché, but to be a Life Redesign Coach, you have to be a genuinely caring and compassionate person and want the best for the people here. We get to know them very well and they become like family to us. We celebrate their successes with them.”

Patti Flaherty, CONNECT’s President and COO, says she admires Sheila’s quiet way of making lives better for people.

“Sheila is amazing with people in the way she supports them. We are really lucky to have her with us in Langley.”

Sheila’s work with an Indigenous woman supported by CONNECT had her co-workers commending her for going above and beyond as a Life Redesign Coach.

Sheila arranged to take the woman to her home several hours from Langley. Sheila picked her up on her day off to drive her there and picked her up a week later on a day off.

CONNECT Langley Leader Juliet Henderson-Rahbar says it was a dream come true for the woman.

“Beyond fulfilling this dream of (the woman) to return to her home and see her family, Sheila also found an Indigenous coordinator for Langley so (the woman) could be aware of Indigenous cultural events we can take her to. Sheila also found her best friend from residential school and connected them through Skype, and arranged for her to access funded life-long mental health counselling for residential school trauma.”

Juliet says Sheila arranged for the counsellor to come to CONNECT so the woman could feel comfortable and safe and could help support a cleansing ceremony at each session.

Sheila humbly acknowledges what she has done for this particular woman.

“You know, she has had an unbelievably tough life, was removed from her culture and then sustained a brain injury on top of everything. I have gotten to know her pretty well and could see that she was missing her culture and her family and I decided to help her reconnect. I have a lot of respect for her and what she’s been through.”

Sheila says the most difficult part of her job is trying to support people when they experience low days or periods of depression, but it’s equally rewarding when they turn a corner and have especially good days.

“Sometimes when a person first moves in their injury is quite new and they are coming to grips with this new reality. It’s hard to see people go through that, but we try to be understanding, while encouraging them to get them out, interact and be involved.”

She says her secret to success at CONNECT is to be herself, tap into her sense of humour and treat people the way she would treat her friends and family.

Sheila is pictured above with her oldest grandson.